There are alleys behind the houses where I live. A town ordinance says that residents are required to keep the 12 inches of land next to the road free of any sort of overgrowth. If a weed or shoot of some kind exceeds eight inches in height, you are in trouble with the law.
In July, I received a written warning from the Code Enforcement Officer, a woman who drives around in a truck with a camera. She hunts for offenders on a daily basis, driving her truck through the alleys as if she were looking for a lost llasa apso. Her name is Pat. Grecco. I despise Pat Grecco. A little history: Before Pat started bothering me about my weeds, she hounded me about my garbage pail lids. They had to be connected by a cord or chain so that the wind wouldn’t blow them down the alley, creating all sorts of mayhem for drivers, garbage men and assorted fauna who come out at night. I connected the lids with bungee cord to the pail, requiring drilling and a drill, and a male friend who owned the drill. Then, I received a second warning, with a photo attached, claiming that we had drilled incorrectly. The lids were to be attached to the metal pail holder, according to very important city doctrine, or I would be hauled off to court.
Back to the weeds. I receive the warning and call the gardener. I tell him to chop down anything taller than eight inches, whatever it is. Tree, vine, possum. I don’t care. And that is that. No more notes from Pat.
Last week, I find a letter in my mailbox from the Municipal Court. It says that I, Pamela Kritke, spelled with the “t,” have a cause number, among other things, like a fine and a pending arrest. Yes, arrest for “excessive accumulation of brush, weeds or rubbish.” Rubbish, I say. I call Yaneth, over at the courthouse. Hello, Yaneth. What’s up.
Seems that Pat, Grecco, issued a citation (translation: wrote me a ticket) that I never received. When I didn’t pay the $97 fine or show up to contest it, Yaneth sent me a letter threatening me with the arrest and the consequences of the arrest:
“Your name will be placed on the Regional Wanted Persons Network. You may be subject to arrest at any time at home, at work, on the road or other. You may be subject to non-renewal of your Driver’s License and Vehicle Registration.”
Well, I think, at least it is not the National Wanted Persons Network.
Yaneth tells me that only Pat can dismiss the ticket. Pat is not the kind of woman to dismiss a classroom, let alone a ticket. I decide to go over to Pat’s office to speak with her boss, Kenneth. Kenneth nods his head. He commiserates. He finds the citation on the computer and figures that I just didn’t get it because there was no record of a returned receipt. He has 16 photographs of grandchildren, one per frame. I tell him there are people driving 90 miles an hour on residential streets and other people shooting themselves in their living rooms, and that a weed offense is a silly waste of time. He says he will talk to Pat.
Pat calls the next morning. She says she has in her hand the citation that I did not receive. Then, she says that she doesn’t care if I’m a single mom and can’t make it to the Wednesday-at-5:30 only court date. Or that my 12 inches in the alley is more manicured than Cowboy stadium. If I don’t show, she said, I will be fined. That Pat. I tell her she will be sorry for her poor choice.
I visit the City Manager, Bob. Bob is a lovely gentleman. “I don’t know why she is persisting. All they are supposed to want is compliance.” I remind him of the people in the living room and he nods his head, just like Kenneth did. He tells me, though, it is up to Pat. He cannot step in between law enforcement and a citizen, because then, he’d be reversing tickets for the people who say they weren’t driving 90 miles in a residential neighborhood when they were. But he says he will call her and let me know. Later in the day, he calls and tells me that Pat won’t dismiss anything and if I get to the court at 5:55, I’ll be out of there by 7, and the judge will take care of it.
So…I will be going to Municipal Court tomorrow at 5:55, letters, photos, transcripts of conversations in hand. Justice at work. Weeds at play. I will tell the judge that Pat is a harassing useless woman with a dumb camera and an insecure ego. In my expert opinion.